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The very rich and the very poor seem to be all the rage on TV these days

  • Succession star Jeremy Strong said while filming Season 3 that the Roys have “a desensitization to things that you or I might feel." "The same is generally true of the characters who populate this year’s many shows about the private-jet set," says Judy Berman. "In HBO’s sleeper summer hit The White Lotus, VIP guests at an exclusive Hawaii resort torment each other as well as staff. Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers sends soul-sick elites to a terrifying high-end wellness resort. Even in the kind of soap that once existed to revel in excess, like HBO Max’s Gossip Girl reboot or Fox’s Our Kind of People, only villains now have uncomplicated relationships to their fortunes. If TV these days is bent on critiquing the ultrawealthy, it’s also invested in portraying the plight of the very poor. The past few months have brought Showtime’s American Rust, a dreary Rust Belt crime drama that opens with its central family on the verge of losing their decrepit home; Netflix’s Maid, about a young mom who finds herself suddenly homeless; and FX’s Reservation Dogs, a dark comedy set on an Oklahoma reservation where deaths of despair have become infuriatingly normalized." Then there is week's premiere of Hulu's Dopesick, focusing on the multibillionaire Sackler family and the ravages of opioid addiction among the poor. Berman adds: "What we’re left with are not just stories about two diametrically opposed demographics, but also stories whose range of tones is severely limited. We love to hate the megarich, whose rarefied lifestyles nonetheless pique our curiosity, and so they are portrayed as cruel, ridiculous, broken. And we love to feel that we’re helping the less fortunate—as long as theirs is what Maid memoirist Stephanie Land has called 'the palatable kind of poor-person story.' The best of these shows are truly empathetic, like Maid and Reservation Dogs; the worst, like American Rust, are steeped in pity and condescension."

    TOPICS: Succession, American Rust, Dopesick, Gossip Girl (2021 Series), Maid, Nine Perfect Strangers, Our Kind of People, Reservation Dogs, The White Lotus